Limiting Social Promotion

In 2001, Florida curtailed the practice of “social promotion.” This is the policy of moving all students — no matter their academic proficiency — to the next grade level in order to keep them with their age cohort. Florida law now states, “No student may be assigned to a grade level based solely on age or other factors that constitute social promotion.”[31] Beginning in the 2002-2003 school year, Florida law also specifically required schools to retain third-graders who do not score at a basic proficiency level on the FCAT in reading.[*]

[*] Fla. Stat. § 1008.25(5)(b). Retaining low-achieving third-graders may have contributed to the growth in fourth-grade reading NAEP scores, since lower-performing third-grade students would no longer be passed along to test on the fourth-grade NAEP. However, fourth-grade reading scores were improving between 1998 and 2002, before the third-grade social-promotion ban impacted fourth-graders taking the NAEP. Moreover, scores continued to rise even after retention rates gradually decreased after 2003. Ladner and Lips, “Demography as Destiny?,” Education Next, vol. 9, no. 3, (Hoover Institution, 2009) (accessed May 31, 2013); Matthew Ladner, “Burke and Ladner respond to the Think Tank Review Project,” in Jay P. Greene’s Blog, (2010),, (accessed June 4, 2013). Additionally, reading scores for first-time third-graders also improved (although not as significantly as fourth-grade NAEP reading scores) from 1998 to 2011. Even after adjusting the fourth-grade NAEP reading scores for the slower third-grader reading score growth, Florida still made significant gains compared to the rest of the nation. Marcus A. Winters, “Florida Defeats the Skeptics,” Education Next, vol. 12, no. 4 (Hoover Institution, 2012), (accessed May 31, 2013).

[31] Fla. Stat. § 1008.25(6)(a)